Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images North America
When Marek Mazanec was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, little did he know that he would be playing in the big leagues 17 months later. With starting goaltender Pekka Rinne out of the lineup with e-coli in his hip and no real front-line starter, Mazanec got his chance. Let's evaluate how he's done so far.
At the age of 21, Mazanec was drafted by an NHL team at an older age than most are. This is likely due to the fact that he wanted to get in a few years in the Czech league with the chance that it would lead to being drafted or signed. It did.
Many had tapped Preds 2011 2nd round pick Magnus Hellberg as next in line and the eventual backup to Rinne. Once the team signed former Chicago Blackhawks farmhand Carter Hutton to be Rinne's backup, it meant that Hellberg wasn't ready. Fast forward to the season and 9 games in, Rinne felt discomfort in his hip – turns out he's got e-coli in his hip, likely from the offseason hip surgery he had.
Hutton stepped in and had a strong showing to start. Hellberg got a shot too but was sent down. Enter Marek Mazanec. He gets his call up to the big leagues after sparkling numbers in Milwaukee. In a span of 11 days, Mazanec got the first start, first win and first shutout of his career. Mazanec finished the month of November allowing 2 goals or less in 8 straight starts. This led to the NHL naming him the Rookie of the Month.
However, after that, the train went off the rails for the Pisek, Czech Republic native. He started games against Vancouver, Carolina and Washington and allowed a total of 12 goals. Head coach Barry Trotz went back to Hutton and has stuck with the free agent pick-up since.
Mazanec is a big goaltender at 6-foot-4 but hasn't had time to build out to meet his frame. He's at just 187 pounds. While he's got solid positioning, he isn't overly flashy and is pretty ordinary laterally. So it's a bit of a change from what we're used to seeing from Rinne. Nevertheless, this early experience for Mazanec can go a long way. So far this season, he's accumulated a 5-7-1 record with a 2.51 GAA and a .915 save percentage. Those numbers aren't bad for a rookie but could certainly use a lot of improvement. Once Rinne returns, Mazanec will obviously be sent down to Milwaukee and I think that will help him out considerably.
Rating Mazanec, I'll give 3.5 stars overall. He shined early but has since come back down to Earth.